I Would Choose for a Student to Fail

I Would Choose for a Student to Fail

I’d rather not choose, but if I had to, I’d choose for a student to fail the test.

I had that thought as I paced the tile floor while on gym duty. It was just a thought exercise I was having with myself. Would I rather a student develop a love of reading and fail the big test, or would I rather a student pass the multiple choice state assessment but not really enjoy reading.

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The Work of Inspiring Readers

I grabbed one more title off the cluttered clearance shelves of my local used bookstore.  My classes this year are fascinated by horror and thriller books.  Last year it was mysteries, and the year before it was all things fantasy.

I find myself browsing the clearance shelves at least once a month for new additions to our burgeoning classroom library.  Sure, the kids could check out books from the school library (and they do), but there is something more intimate and connected about our classroom library.

It takes personal time and my own money to do this, but I don't mind.  I know it takes a lot of work to inspire readers.  It makes me a better teacher.

I wish I had more conversations about this side of reading from admins and other teachers.  Instead it's mostly about data, spreadsheets, data, test scores, and more data.  So many important things in education don't fit nicely into line graphs.

A student told me on the first week of school how much she didn't like to read.  It took some serious work, but now she can't wait for reader's workshop and enjoys reading to me.  Tell me, how do I plot that on an .xls sheet?

Maybe if we put more effort into igniting a passion for books, we wouldn't have to worry so much about bubble sheets and test scores.

A New Year's REVolution

My students and I came up with New Year's REVolutions to celebrate the start of 2012.  We started by going through this Prezi I made titled Resolution vs. Revolution.

Most of my 4th graders had heard of resolutions.  They had seen their parents try to lose weight or quit smoking.  If parents only knew half of the things their children say about them at school...  We dicussed how a revolution is different.  It's not just a solution to a problem.  A revolution is a fundamental change in thinking.

We began listing problems, issues, or unsatisfactory things in our lives.  One of these would turn into our goal.  For example, one irritation I have is that I read too many books concurrently.  I get started, but rarely finish.  I'm emabarrased to say, but I rounded up all the books I started, but didn't finish in 2011.  It was close to 30.  Whoops.  My goal is to only read one book at time.

The revolution comes in my change of thinking about this problem.  I'm not just going to solve this problem (resolution), I'm going to change my thinking about it.  This happens by outlining a few process steps.

Next, my classes and I wrote three action steps that we could take to make sure this goal was reached.  These steps are critical.  I told them each step needed to be do-able and start with a verb.  Here are my three:

1. Commit to only reading one book at a time
I promised myself I would keep this up.  I actually modified it a bit to include two books- one novel and one non-fiction.  I figured those are different enough.

2. Make a list of books to read later
This will keep me from panicking that I'll forget a title I want to get.  I'm going to keep this as an Amazon wish list so I can get to it easily from my phone while I'm out.

3.  Write a review on Goodreads when I finish a book
This is a little treat for completing something.  I only get to write a review on my Goodreads page when I finish a book.

So far, so good.  My current novel (that I started in October, by the way. Yikes.) is Catching Fire, and my current non-fiction is Notebook Know-How.

Be sure to check out all my students' revolutions on The Bloggers' Guild.  Wish us well!

Read Like Writers, Write Like Readers

quotation-marks If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or tools to write.  -Stephen King

I often tell my students to read like writers and write like readers.  It's one of those meta things that makes them think a little more critically about their own literacy.

I've always heard that reading and writing are two sides of the same coin.  It's a weighted coin, though.  They're inextricably linked, to be sure.  But, they’re not necessarily equal in correlation.

I've had many students who love reading and are excellent at it.  These same students may or may not be great writers (at least not yet).

But, great writers are almost always passionate readers.  In my experience, I've never had a talented writer who didn't love reading.  This is one more reason that I strive to create an authentic community of readers in my classroom.

What's your experience?

Get Your Students Reading and Blogging This Summer

Summer Read-O-Rama Part 1 from Mr. Stortz on Vimeo.

During the last week of school, I told all of the students to try their best to keep up with the blogs over the summer. I encouraged everyone to make a few posts during the summer to let us know what was going on in your life. I also hinted at some summer reading activities to help everyone stay motivated to read. I'm calling it Summer Read-O-Rama. Throughout the summer I will be posting updates and new activities for everyone to take part in.

Part 1: Five for 5th

Students- pick out 5 books that you want to read before fifth grade. Get on your blog and post your titles. Check out what others are reading and leave some comments. You can even back -log titles from the last two weeks, if you have been reading them.

Free Books!

Three different bookstores are giving away free books this summer. It's okay to count the same book on multiple forms. Please click on the links below for more info.

Half Price Books: Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program You can earn a $3 gift card every week until the end of July

Barnes & Noble: Summer Reading Earn a free book

Borders: Summer Reading Double Dog Dare Earn a free book